In the afternoon of April 19, 2002, the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research held a seminar entitled "Free the Chinese Internet." Speakers included Mr. William Baum, Chinese Branch Chief at Voice of America (VOA), Mr. Paul Baranowski, creator of Peekabooty, a software application that will allow users to bypass Internet censorship in countries where it is practiced, Mr. Ethan Gutmann, a visiting fellow at the Project for the New American Century; and Mr. Greg Walton, a research consultant focusing on the impact of high technology on human rights and democratic development.

The attendees repeatedly emphasized the point that "This is a very serious topic."

Freedom or Censorship

When the Internet was first introduced in China, people were watching and wondering, "Will it bring media and speech freedoms to China, or become a new brainwashing tool?"

"China has always imposed strict control on the major ISP's. Especially personal communications, and messages from outside China are being and have been censored since the first day of the internet in China" Gutmann said, "Suspicious IP's were blocked in several weeks at the beginning, then it was shortened to several days, and then to several hours recently." Baum told audiences that VOA's EZProxy is being blocked more and more consistently recently.

The Role of Technology from Western Companies

The technologies that China is using to control the Internet are often provided by western companies. "CISCO specifically designed a content filtering router for China. Eighty percent of the routers in China are from CISCO." Gutmann said, "and the ongoing Golden Shield System is a joint project between China and Nortel. The project explores the application of various technologies to the Internet, such as biochemical monitoring, artificial intelligence, auto-recognition, and the like. Once these technologies are installed in a city, the net police can monitor everyone who is on the Internet. Recently, China declared that soldiers cannot use cell phones, because cell phones in the Chinese market are easily positioned and eavesdropped on. According to convention, China usually has this technical ability before they make these kinds of rules public. But we are still not clear which company provided China with this technology. China also added spy programs to some software. If you are a network administrator, and use CuteFTP to transfer your files, it is very likely you are being monitored. The more astonishing thing is that China bought 1000 computer viruses from some company."

The Fight to Break Internet Censorship

Ordinary Chinese net users, overseas Democracy Movement people, Falun Gong practitioners and all kinds of western organizations and individuals are trying to break the Chinese Internet blockade. Ten percent of Chinese Internet users have used proxies. Security email technologies have been widely used. After proxies outside China were all blocked, VOA started to fund the "Triangle Boy" technology.

"Witnessing others harshly violating human rights and strictly censoring the network, I decided to use my spare time to develop a network system called Peekabooty, and make public the source code, so that everybody can use it and improve it," Paul Baranowski said. He is a colleague of host Walton, who is also a professor of computer science.

From the Chinese Communist party's point of view, Internet freedom is a big threat to its regime. The South China Morning Post quoted the Minister of Public Security Jia Chunwang's words that China has dealt with the movement for Internet freedom as fighting conspiracies by "hostile foreign forces that are trying to subvert China through the Internet."

This seminar gave rise to serious concern by attendees from all walks of life. After the invited guests finished their talks, the members of the audience carried out lively discussions.

Many organizations, including the Fund for Democracy and Dynamic Net, attended this seminar. The Washington Post, CNN, and Epoch Times also interviewed the seminar speakers on location.